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Meet Ashlie Chavez, Freelance Photographer and Artist

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashlie Chavez.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Ashlie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My mother was a professional photographer and worked out of her studio in our home. She handed down all of her cameras and equipment to my twin sister and I. I began developing film and printing in my parent’s garage and at Tri-Community Photography School. I finished high school in 3 years to focus on photography.

I got my BFA in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Creative Photography at CSUF. After college, I worked at a local skateboard shop shooting professional skateboarders. Meanwhile, the collaborative work I did with my twin sister got the attention of some people/brands and I started shooting musicians and editorials for clothing lines. Simultaneously I opened an online store for my art outside of photography. All the while, it was my fine art photography that has been crucial to my artistic career. Collaborations with my twin sister and my personal artwork are what landed us/me our first three solo shows and many groups show after that in OC and LA.

Currently, I am a freelance photographer but also a photo editor at Shutterstock which makes for a very good balance. Being a photo editor has allowed me to work every day and book shoots on weekends. I’ve also been widening my spectrum for commissions outside of photography. I was just part of a group project called Collage Memory and it’s an art game that’s being sold at museums like MoMA. I’ve started doing commissioned drawings of family portraits for invitations or wall art. I also have some book projects in the works pertaining to photographic alternative processes.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Things have been tough. Having my son the last year of college, made it almost impossible to finish school. And raising him alone made it extremely difficult to work for five years. Family and close friends helped sustain us. I couldn’t start full-time work until he was in school. I remember not wanting to shoot because I couldn’t afford to get anything developed. I had no motivation to document such an important part of my life simply because of money. It was a very dark time for me. But, I shot what I could and sure enough when I started working again I grabbed a ziplock bag filled with 36 rolls of film and began processing them little by little and it was very gratifying and reflective.

Being on your own with a child is quite hard, especially juggling full-time work with work you want to make for yourself. You can’t be a parent and be selfish. So, letting go of certain opportunities is definitely an ongoing internal struggle for me. I am pulled in a lot of different directions that has me perpetually wearing thin.

On a lighter note, learning digital was an obstacle! Although I still specialize in analog photography I do shoot digital because let’s face it, sometimes it’s needed. While the quality and aesthetic will never be on par with film, digital has become necessary as a freelance photographer and it took me some time to get the hang of it.

Please tell us about you, Ashlie Chavez.
I am a freelance photographer and artist. I specialize in analog photography. I am most know for my fine art photography and my portraiture. The work I’ve done documenting my own personal life with my son and twin sister is what resonates with people most. I am very happy with and proud of the portraits I take of people in their domestic space. I believe it is my sincerity in this process that sets me apart from a lot of photographers. The intimate conversation that leads up to each photograph captures an image that is too candid to be posted but too perfect to be candid – which ultimately makes the greatest portrait.

My twin sister told me something I have always kept with me… “You’ve always been able to make something out of nothing.” Working with what I have instead of lamenting over what I don’t have taught me that it’s the honesty in my work that gives it it’s credence.

If you had to start over, what would you have done differently?
The what-ifs will drive you crazy.

There are many things one might view objectively as mistakes – but I wouldn’t take them back because I would not have ended up making the work I’ve made otherwise. I said raising a child alone has taken away many opportunities but those amount to nothing in comparison with the experiences I’ve had with my son, River. He’s seven now and just got his first camera and is already shooting with me, having his own ideas and asking things like, “What were you thinking about when you took that photograph?”. I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.

One thing for sure, I wish I handled better though is the whole school loan situation… it really haunts you and education shouldn’t do that.

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